Special treatment gives Israeli mobsters free access to US soil: WikiLeaks

Known Israeli organized crime bosses are able to travel freely to the United States, unlike counterparts from Italy, China and Central America, because the State Department has failed to apply US law to them.

It appears that at least one prominent Israeli crime family member was able to reach the United States with a specific intent to commit murder, as a result of this exemption.

This revelation comes in a May 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv titled “Israel: A Promised Land for Organized Crime?”

The cable, which was released by Wikileaks on 26 August, details the growing alarm of American officials that “Organized crime in Israel now has global reach, with direct impact inside the United States.”

Israel, according to the cable, is a world center of money laundering, drug trafficking, and trafficking in women for prostitution; and Israeli crime families operate international criminal syndicates involved in gambling, credit card and technology fraud spanning the globe.

Israel mobsters use IDF training to kill

The cable points out that Israeli organized crime families have grown increasingly murderous and that:

the new style of crime features knowledge of hi-tech explosives acquired from service in the Israeli Defense Forces, and a willingness to use indiscriminate violence, at least against rival gang leaders. New OC [organized crime] business also includes technology-related crimes, such as stock market and credit card fraud, and operates on a global scale.

Efforts to fight Israeli crime in US hampered by legal exemption

Under a heading titled “Israeli OC Operating Freely in United States,” the cable states:

it is fair to assume that many known OC figures hold valid tourist visas to the United States and travel freely.

It notes that the US Embassy in Tel Aviv

is currently utilizing all available tools to deny Israeli OC [organized crime] figures access to the United States in order to prevent them from furthering their criminal activities on US soil.

But the American officials are hampered in a key respect – the special exemption apparently granted to known Israeli mob bosses:

Unlike OC [organized crime] groups from the former Soviet Union, Italy, China, and Central America, application of INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] 212(a)(3)(A)(ii) against Israeli OC is not specifically authorized per Foreign Affairs Manual 40.31 N5.3. As such, Israelis who are known to work for or belong to OC families are not automatically ineligible for travel to the United States.

The cable refers to a specific section of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) – the guide for US consular officers issuing visas – that deals with visa applications by “Aliens Engaging in Organized Crime.” The FAM list of known criminal organizations includes:

the Chinese Triads; the Mafia; the Yakuza; any of the various groups constituting the organized crime families of the Former Soviet Union; any of the organized Salvadoran street gangs in North America, including, but not limited to, the Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS 13) and 18th Street (18th Street) gangs; and the biker gangs the Hells Angels, the Outlaws, Bandidos, and the Mongols.

Yet the many known Israeli crime organizations detailed in the US Embassy cable are absent. This version of the FAM is dated 19 July 2011, which means that more than two years after the plea from US Embassy officials in Tel Aviv, no action had been taken to stop the free access for Israeli mob bosses to the US.

Exemption allowed Israeli hitman to reach US soil

The cable details at least one case where treating Israel the same as other countries with a major organized crime problem might have prevented a criminal reaching US soil.

It concerns Adam Abitbul [also spelled in the cable “Abutbul”], the son of, as the cable puts it, “crime-family head Charlie Abutbul.” Charlie Abutbul was gunned down in a September 2008 mob hit. The cable states:

In June 2008, Post [the embassy] issued Adam Abitbul a valid tourist visa. Abitbul had no prior criminal convictions, and carried no visa ineligibilities. Several months later, Post received information from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) that he had traveled to the United States to carry out a hit. Abitbul returned to Israel prematurely for his father’s funeral, at which time Post revoked his visa.

Would Abitbul have gotten a visa if the State Department applied the same law to Israel as it does to other countries?

Once again, it appears that special treatment for Israel means that Israeli citizens with known criminal ties are able to come to the United States to commit crimes against Americans including, potentially, murder.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.